Fact vs Fiction: Arms Trade Treaty and Gun Ownership in the US

child soldier in liberia

Countries in several parts of the world grapple with the horrific problem of the use of child soldiers exacerbated by the unregulated flow of weapons. © AFP/Getty Images

As world leaders meet in New York this month to negotiate the first ever global arms trade treaty, the Internet has been buzzing with conspiracy theories that such a treaty would infringe on Second Amendment rights in the US.

This is a fallacy, driven at best by misinformation and at worst by a deliberate effort to undermine the treaty. Given the incredibly lucrative arms trade estimated to exceed $60 billion annually (with the US exporting 34% of all weapons) it’s not a surprise that such a misinformation campaign has taken the Internet by storm.

Here let me break down fact from fiction.

Will the ATT stop the sale of handguns in the US?

NO it will not.

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Historic Arms Trade Treaty in the Balance

times square bananas action

Amnesty activists descended on Times Square the week before Arms Trade Treaty talks began in New York. © Bob Scott

Earlier this week, world leaders officially opened the negotiations at the UN to forge an historic global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to regulate the international arms trade.

The negotiations cap a 10-year effort led by organizations, including Amnesty International, and a small group of progressive governments that have been fighting for the treaty despite skepticism of those countries involved with the incredibly lucrative arms trade estimated to exceed $60 billion annually.

The outright opposition from the largest producer of small arms, the United States, has been a critical point of contention is moving the Treaty forward. The administration of G.W. Bush rejected the idea of regulating arms, in effect removing the US’ 34% share of global arms market from inclusion in any global deal.

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NYC Learns the Difference Between Bananas and Guns

This week, Amnesty International activists went bananas in New York City’s Times Square  to tell New Yorkers why the upcoming Arms Trade Treaty talks at the UN are so important to protecting human rights.

Three giant digital billboards lit up in Amnesty yellow, and thousands of New Yorkers watched our ClickBoom video on the big screens. And we handed out a healthy, organic banana to passerby — a fair trade snack accompanied by Amnesty’s “Bananafesto” that highlights the insane fact that there are stricter regulations on bananas than there are on guns and bullets worldwide.

Check out our new video from the event, featuring a clip from none other than Russell Brand:

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4 Ways You Can Help Stop The Arming Of Tyrants

guns have fewer trade regulations than bananasIt’s easier to trade weapons around the world than it is to trade bananas.

No, you didn’t just read that wrong.  It’s really easier to trade guns and bullets than bananas.

This fact, as absurd as it is, shows how easy it is for brutal dictators and armed groups to buy weapons and use them against civilians.  This weapons free-for-all policy is so bad that every minute, someone dies from armed violence.

World leaders are meeting to negotiate the first ever arms trade treaty in July.  We’ve got just one shot to get it right, so please join us to demand a strong arms trade treaty (without loopholes!) that protects human rights.

A bulletproof arms trade treaty would establish strict rules for the international transfer of arms, and hold irresponsible arms suppliers and dealers to account.

Here are four ways you can help:

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Why Are We Still Arming Children and Tyrants?

child soldier in liberia

A child soldier in Liberia. (Photo Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images)

Growing up in central Texas, I had a lot of friends who were responsible gun owners. Many would hunt deer or sport shoot. Some even carried a gun for self-protection. It was part of the culture. But there was always a heavy emphasis on the “responsible” component of bearing arms.

My gun-owning neighbors in Texas may have embraced the unofficial motto of the National Rifle Association – guns don’t kill people; people kill people – but they would never in a million years have put a loaded weapon in the hands of someone who they knew was likely to use that gun to kill or maim.

So as we watch in horror the slaughter of innocent men, women, and children in Syria, or stare aghast at our computer screens at images of brutal violence and child soldiers in remote regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, what are we to call those countries and international arms brokers who irresponsibly sell guns to thugs intent on violence? Profiteers? Bad actors?

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Shocking Facts About Who’s Arming Human Rights Abusers [INFOGRAPHIC]

Just six countries export a whopping 74 percent of the world’s weapons, with the US making up 35 percent of the global total. 

Treaties regulate the global trade of many products – even bananas and dinosaur bones – but not guns and bullets. We need a strong Arms Trade Treaty that will stop tools of death from getting into the hands of people like Syria’s Assad and Sudan’s Bashir who continue to brutalize their people.

In July, UN member countries will debate the adoption of a global Arms Trade Treaty.  Take action to make sure they make the right decision — to keep weapons out of the wrong hands!

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Syria's Assad Targets Children for Detention and Torture

Syrian refugee children fleeing the violence in their country gather at a partially set up camp near Jordan's northern border. © KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images

It’s almost unbelievable, a government targeting children in an attempt to repress popular uprisings.

The latest reports from the BBC that Syrian children are being targeted for detention and torture are shocking but coincide with evidence Amnesty researchers uncovered in a recent mission to the region.

According to UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay, these actions against children seem “systematic and targeted” and are being carried out by Assad’s security forces:

“They’ve gone for the children, for whatever purpose, in large numbers – hundreds detained and tortured.

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Asking Tough Questions on US Military Aid to Egypt

egyptian protester run tear gas

A masked Egyptian protester runs after picking up a tear gas canister fired by riot police during clashes near the interior ministry in Cairo on February 4, 2012. (Photo KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

When the news finally came, it was through the back door.  Last week, US Senator Patrick Leahy posted a public statement expressing “disappointment” with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s decision to waive new Congressional human rights requirements on US aid to Egypt.

In Senator Leahy’s words:

The Egyptian military should be defending fundamental freedoms and the rule of law …  They should end trials of civilians in military courts and fully repeal the Emergency Law, and our policy should not equivocate on these key reforms.

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#Kony2012 and the Warping Logic of Atrocity

Joseph Kony Uganda LRA

Joseph Kony (STUART PRICE/AFP/Getty Images)

In the past 48 hours, there has been a flood of criticism of Invisible Children’s #Kony2012 campaign—much of it fair, some of it less so.

My first exposure to IC’s work was some time ago when—with Resolve—they launched the LRA Crisis Tracker. In stark contrast to the criticisms of implicit disempowerment of affected people by the Kony2012 campaign, this tool empowers communities through radio and digital communications to effectively form an overlapping system of neighborhood watch in LRA-affected areas. It is—in short—good work, and represents the promise of access to the benefits of science and technology, whether for underprivileged people in the US, or communities facing security threats in Uganda and elsewhere.

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U.S. Arms Sales to Bahrain: 4 Questions for the Obama Administration

Bahraini anti-government protesters in Zinj Village, west of Manama, run for cover from tear gas on Dec. 23, 2011. ©AFP/Getty Images

As I wrote on Saturday, the Obama Administration has authorized a new U.S. arms sale to the Bahraini monarchy.  This comes just months after a Congressional and public outcry that led the administration to suspend a prior $53 million arms sale to Bahrain.

Members of Congress, journalists, and Amnesty International were all outraged over the last proposed arms sale.  That’s because Bahraini protesters continue to be tear gassed, beaten, and even killed while exercising their human rights of free speech and association – rights that include the freedom to criticize one’s government.

Regarding this new arms sale, here are the top four questions that the Obama administration must answer immediately: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST